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Beyond Red & Green

‘Tis the season and I can’t help but notice the dynamic duo everywhere I go: Red and Green. When you see the two together it’s usually a garish in-your-face-buy-me-now red paired with a holly-jolly-where’s-my-credit-card-green. These two colors are the harbingers of Christmas and begin to appear in your local Walgreens just after Halloween. After Thanksgiving they make their full-blown sneak attack to the tune of “Last Christmas” by Wham. The red and green of Christmas Present has less to do with a holly branch or a Douglas fir, rather it tugs on those nostalgic heart strings towards a sign that reads “Sale.” Ok ok…I’m the first to admit that working retail for 15 years has made me jaded around the holidays. I do confess that a small flicker of joy remains for those two colors. Let me get down off my Christmas soapbox for a minute so we can dive into two of my year-round favorites…

Red and green are a familiar set of complements and there are plenty of reds and greens out there to choose from. Let me let you in on a little secret: Quinacridone Burnt Orange and Green Gold are out of this world! Not your obvious complementary pair but a glorious team nonetheless. These unique, hidden gems simply dance together on the canvas.

Can colors vary between brands? Yes. Each company will have their own formulas, milling processes, where their pigments come from. Green Gold is a color that definitely varies from company to company. Personally, I use Golden brand’s Green Gold because of its extreme intensity. I consider one of the most effective ways to understand a color is by examining the range of mutes it creates. In the color study above you can see the beginnings of an exciting array of browns. I tinted the colors with white to see what kind of highlights they create.

I really have to hand it to whoever came up with the name “Green Gold” because it is truly a treasure among colors. Transparent, luminous, and heavily leaning towards the yellow side of the spectrum, Green Gold is an awesome color choice when adding energy, electricity and warmth to a painting.

Fall Trees

Of course, what is a color without its complement? In the case of Green Gold, its complement would be red. Quinacridone Burnt Orange is a rusty autumnal red with the same luminescence and transparency as Green Gold. Both are modern colors and they complement each other beautifully. If you are familiar with my teaching style you’ve heard me emphasize the importance of a “limited color palette” (more blog posts on this later!). This Fall Trees painting practices just that with a specific emphasis on the red and green complements. Being a loud and proud color nerd – I am happy to spend hours on end exploring the nuances of color relationships and seeing how I can apply that knowledge to my painting process.

The holidays come and go but these two colors make appearances on my palette year-round. Perhaps it’s the background noise of “Ben Hur” or maybe its a bit of undigested candy cane speaking but I’ll leave you with this:

“Twas the night before Christmas and inside the house

I stood by my easel in a paint-covered blouse.

The canvas looked festive with colors so bright,

Happy painting to all and to all a good night!”

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